10 seems to have had trouble finding its footing since Studio
HARRIS: It’s [having trouble] because it’s still trying to operate
in the same way that caused it to close: union house.
KRAMER: First off, Tony Conte and Shea’s saved 710, and we
should all be very thankful for that.
O’CONNELL: Shea’s is on a good track with 710. Bringing in
local theater companies to present larger productions and special
performances keeps this familiar venue more local focused.
KRAMER: While people could—and have—taken issue with
some of the programming choices, it’s hard being a theater that
hosts other theaters’ productions. The quality of the work can be
uneven. Add to that the size of 710 and the associated costs that
come with it, and it can be very challenging for local theater to
produce a show there.
HARRIS: Smaller organizations don’t have the operating
budget to have programming in that venue. It should have been
given to all artists in Western New York as a venue open for
public use. That would have been a great opportunity to add
more diversity to the theater district. The underrepresentation of
African-American presence in the theater district is disheartening
to say the least.
O’NEILL: 710 won’t be rebuilt in a day. I want to see it become
Buffalo’s theater company. I enjoyed Studio Arena, but it really
wasn’t Buffalo’s theater company and, for the most part, brought
people from outside and ignored the wealth of local talent. It’s a
huge difference with Michael Murphy, who is using local talent
and local companies.
QUINN: Michael Murphy talks, he listens, he takes in
information, and brings his wealth of knowledge and experience.
He’s becoming familiar with the Buffalo audience and
constructing a vision for that space.
Could it be a League of Resident Theaters again?
BEHREND: To be a LORT, you have to be a self-producing
company, and I think that 710, at least for a while, is going to be
maintained as a larger community resource. It all comes down
to dollars; the place would have to be doing a robust subscriber
base and really selling a lot of single tickets. One of Michael’s
thought processes is he wants to have 710 do the same kind
of business that Shea’s does, maybe not in a commercial sense
artistically speaking, but in terms of getting people though the
O’NEILL: The potential is there, but people have to be patient.
It would take structured steps for that to happen, but I think it
will happen in time.
Has Buffalo’s renaissance diminished
people’s fear of coming downtown? Have
you gained numbers?
O’CONNELL: Our audience has found
their way to the Shea’s Smith for our
shows. Many people still prefer our Park
School location, but we have found new
audience and welcomed some of our
regulars to Smith.
O’DONNELL: There are still older
patrons who are nervous, but you’ll never
get them to change. Getting a younger
audience base has really helped.
ELKIN: Shakespeare in Delaware Park
had the largest audiences this summer that
we have ever had.
O’NEILL: Main Street being
pedestrianized made a huge difference,
most buildings having a residential
component, traffic patterns around Main
and Ellicott, the amount of activity, music
or theater or Sabres, have all made a difference.
O’DONNELL: The busier and more alive downtown is, the
better for all businesses.
O’NEILL: We used to have this joke when we moved here
that you could look down Main Street in January and it was like
a tundra, you could shoot a moose. Now, you can’t throw a stone
because you’d hit somebody.
RANDY: We’ve had great success with some of our shows at
710; over 10,000 people came to see Ring of Fire and Avenue Q.
HARRIS: Our numbers started growing due, in part, to our
season selections and some to earlier time offerings. People are
being more adventurous.
BEHREND: Downtown is as safe as it’s ever been, especially in
the theater district. The amount of people walking around at any
given time is incredible compared to what it was twenty years ago.
People’s fears are outdated.
Complete the sentence: the Buffalo theater scene needs
HARRIS: More recognition for bringing in tourism dollars.
O’DONNELL: It would be great if we could have some of those
“Buffalo Billions” for marketing and advertising, or some City of
Buffalo money. Maybe a general cultural arts scene campaign that
advertises more than just Curtain Up!—which all the theaters
created on their own, by the way.
O’NEILL: I’ve been talking for years about having a three-week
festival in the summer, and not just in theater, but the BPO,
Burchfield, city exhibitions. It could have enormous appeal beyond
the city or county; we need to come up with marketing that
goes beyond Buffalo. The notion of a two- to three-week festival
and marketed nationally, then it becomes a tradition. All those
festivals started with Galway and now Edinborough is so large, it
takes a week to read the program!
QUINN: More conversation based not on our own two cents,
but what’s out there, and how it might apply to us. Is there a way
to leverage a collective approach to the more organizational things
that would allow more resources and time and energy for creating
HARRIS: More diversity! We recently hosted The Blackness
Project at PRT moderated by Mayor Byron Brown and the audience
was fifty percent African American and fifty percent white
American. The world is filled with so much tension caused by
the current political climate, and the theme for resolving these
issues or at least attempting to understand is more community
O’NEILL: Getting the word out, having a theater festival,
eventually having a LORT again, a genuine theater of record. We
need more companies joining Theater
Communications Group, because, if you’re
not in it, you’re not aware of what’s going
O’CONNELL: More positive and
frequent press outside of reviews. Profiles,
human interest stories, interviews, etc.
We have a very generous and community
invested theater community. People need
to know their favorite performers as “real”
people who read, shop, have a family, go
to movies, museums and concerts, cook,
garden, travel, sports, etc.
KRAMER: To continue to elevate its
game! We have to keep moving forward
so that as our architecture, cuisine, and
overall culture gets sent out to other
regions and the nation, we are also ready in
the theater community to showcase work
of the highest standard possible to the rest
of the country.
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